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Syndie Time Slots Suddenly Tighten Up

The first-run syndication market for 2014 is rapidly closing, with all three major new entries from this fall looking like they will be renewed or retained for second seasons.

Deals are not completed, but according to several sources, CBS Television Distribution and Tribune’s new late-night entry The Arsenio Hall Show is going to get a second season. And there’s a good chance that Warner Bros.’ Bethenny, which is showing promise among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54, will return as well. Sony Pictures Television’s Queen Latifah, which was sold in two-year deals, also is expected to return for season two.

None of the new shows are burning up the ratings charts, but all are performing at sustainable levels. In this market, where it takes viewers a while to find fresh entries, stations and syndicators are willing to be more patient, particularly because it is unlikely they will have better much luck with another new show.

The fate of Disney/ ABC’s Katie remains uncertain. Host Katie Couric is unsure whether she wants to return for a third season, and distributor Disney/ABC Television is uncertain whether it can bring the program’s financials into line. Should both of those things happen, Disney/ ABC then has to find new time slots for Katie across the country, considering that many stations already have bought other shows to replace it.

Warner Bros.’ slow-burner, TMZ Live, also has been renewed through 2016-17, taking slots on the Fox-owned stations but also spreading slowly across the country in cash-only deals.

What it all means is that there is little room for new 2014 entries. Three crime-focused shows that were being pitched—Warner Bros.’ True Crime Daily, CTD’s Crimesider and Debmar-Mercury’s Star Jones vehicle— all are likely being pushed off until 2015.

Tribune, which was looking seriously at pairing True Crime Daily and Crimesider in an access block, instead went with Debmar-Mercury’s Celebrity Name Game. Scripps is interested in the Star Jones show, but the lack of available time periods for next fall is forcing Debmar-Mercury to hold.

“Crime is a great area, and all of these shows had different aspects that were good,” says one syndication executive. “But when it came to crossing the finish line, the market just wasn’t ready. Maybe the next thing in daytime is the evolution of court so you are dealing with crime and punishment, but perhaps it’s in a panel format.”

Meanwhile, Hot Bench, the new court show created by Judge Judy Sheindlin, is still searching for launch stations in the country’s largest markets, sources say.

New shows that are definite for next fall are NBCUniversal’s Meredith Vieira, Warner Bros’ The Real and Celebrity Name Game. With those three sold, shows such as Family Feud and Dish Nation renewed through 2017 and 2015 respectively and the three new fall 2013 shows all expected back, there is little room for new product.

As a result, syndicators and stations are looking toward 2015, when some of syndication’s lower-rated or declining shows could end up being cancelled, opening up room for new entries.

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.